We’re just about halfway through the tournament, and already some pundits have called Euro 2016 one of the more disappointing competitions in recent memory. Teams that were hyped up before the tournament don’t seem to have delivered the spark expected of them, with Germany in particular looking pedestrian. Some have also pointed out the low scoring nature of this year’s tournament, with only 73 goals scored over the first 39 games. Although that sounds like a lot, that number was exceed after only 25 games in the last significant international tournament, Brazil 2014.
It’s likely that when future generations look back on documentations of Euro 2016, they’ll read as much about the fans of the tournament as the quality of the football on display. For the past month, fans from around the continent have hit the newspaper pages just as much as the teams they support, being splashed on front and back pages for both positive and negative reasons.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to stay one step ahead of the football historians, and look at two of the best (and two of the worst) groups of supporters we’ve seen so far, with images courtesy of Stay Sourced.
Republic of Ireland
Back in 2012, the boys in green had statistically one of the worst Euros performances of all time, dropping out in the group stages with 0 points and a -8 goal difference. Not much was expected of the Republic of Ireland this year, but with O’Neill and Keano at the helm it’s safe to say that the team did far better than what anyone expected of them, especially considering the tough group they were placed in.
But enough about the team, because it’s the Irish fans that have been the real stars of the tournament. For a few weeks, the press at home, in the UK, and across the continent was filled with
almost biblical stories depicting Irish fans as Christ-like figures, travelling the country performing good deeds wherever they went. Amongst the miracles performed include singing to a nun, serenading a baby to sleep on a tram, helping to change a tyre, and even cleaning up after themselves. Ireland’s fans were so well behaved (and well liked) that the French public have officially voted them the best visiting fans of the tournament.
Much like Ireland, Wales weren’t really expected to do anything other than turn up at this tournament, with patronising pundits repeating the old cliché that they’d just be “happy to be there”. Naysayers have soon been proved wrong, with the championship first timers fast becoming the only home nation left competing. Even more surprising is that Wales have arguably played some of the more entertaining matches of the tournament, although that could just be a reflection on the wider quality of football being played.
Welsh fans have proved themselves adept at the whole Euros thing too, although the 18602 miles individual fans travelled to qualify may have given them some experience. Again, like Ireland, it’s always a good sign when a team’s fans are actively praised by the police of the home country, with the Gendarmes praising the friendliness of the visiting Dragons. Samaritan like deeds have been widely documented on social media, with Welsh fans pictured helping a lost boy find his dad being just one example. Bale has praised supporters too, calling them the team’s 12th man after their victory to Slovakia.
The Russian team carried out potentially some of the worst performances of the tournament, fielding a team that looked to be actively accepting of failure. When your only consolation is snatching a victory against a similarly abject looking England, then there’s probably something going wrong.
The only defence that can be given is that Russia’s behaviour on the pitch wasn’t half as bad as the behaviour of the fans off it. Although they couldn’t make themselves well known through the quality of football played, Russia’s support soon became the talking point of the tournament, smashing up bars, cars, and town squares with glee. Fans were accused of travelling with the sole intention of causing trouble, something that Go pro footage would seem to confirm. Although Russia were handed a suspended disqualification and a €150,000 fine, this isn’t likely to deter a minority of fans who seem more interested in replicating tired old hooligan clichés than watching football. With the world cup heading to Russia in 2018, the next couple of years of international football look set to be a riot.
Poor old England. Every tournament seems to start and end in the same way, but the media, fans, and players never seem to learn. Pre-tournament things looked pretty optimistic for the three Lions, with a young squad causing talk of a new “golden generation”. However, as the tournament went on England looked ever more nervous, eventually bowing out in the only way that an England side seems to know how.
With performances as bad as Englands, it’s hard to blame the fans for their behaviour. Much like their team, supporters of the three Lions delivered a classic English away performance this year. Excessive alcohol consumption? Check. Offensive chanting? Check. Damage of property? Check. It was almost as if fans had got stuck in a time warp on the way to Marseille and been spat out in 1998. Of course, all English fans weren’t to blame for all of the trouble, and it’s acknowledged now that in many cases local and visiting ultras were the provocation for a minority of the support. However, that doesn’t excuse talk of fans taunting local children, or commiserating a defeat by fighting amongst themselves.